A British big-wave surfer has broken his back in a brutal wipeout after a 50ft wave came crashing down on him off the coast of Portugal.
Andrew Cotton, 36, from Braunton, Devon came off his board while riding a huge wave in Nazare, Portugal, and was severely injured.
Mr Cotton, who holds the world record for biggest wave ever surfed, was rescued from the water and placed on a spinal board before being taken to a local hospital.
Scroll down for video
Calm before the storm: Britain big wave surfer Andrew Cotton drops a wave during a surf session at Praia do Norte in Nazare, Portugal, shortly before the accident
Video footage show him riding the huge wave at Praia do Norte in Nazare and the moment when it engulfs him, forcing him to jump off his board.
‘I jumped off my board, I very rarely do that. I just hit the eject button and thought, f***, I gotta get out of this. Then a whole world of pain happened.’
He said: ‘It was perfect conditions, the waves were really big. Nazare can be quite unpredictable.
‘Maybe I took a deeper line than I should’ve done and got swept away. I’m pretty good at falling off and have had a lot of wipeouts but this time I remember feeling a weird sense of weightlessness I’ve never felt before which must’ve been when I was flying through the air.
Inspiration: Mr Cotton is a 36-year-old plumber from Devon who holds the world record for biggest wave ever surfed
Taking the hit: Mr Cotton has described the events as a split-second decision on whether to jump off the board or stay on when the wave came down over him
Impact: Video footage shows the moment the 50ft wave engulfs the 36-year-old surfer
Mr Cotton was rescued from the water and placed on a spinal board before being taken to a local hospital
‘It was the most impact I’ve ever had.’
Andrew likened being thrown by the waves and hitting the surface to being hit by a car.
He revealed he has fractured his lower back and spoke about some of his previous injuries.
‘I’ve had a few shockers – usually cartilage or ligaments but this is the first broken bone I’ve had. It could be way worse,’ he said.
He is now focusing on recovery and rehab and said the wipeout won’t put him off getting back in the water when he’s ready.
‘I’ve been surfing in the south west since I was seven and I love it. For some reason big waves are my draw and I can’t think of anything better to do.’
Lucky escape: Mr Cotton is pictured during the rescue operation on the beach, left, and in a selfie taken in his hospital bed
Happy families: MrCotton and wife Katie, seen with their son Ace on their wedding day in September 2012
Mrs Cotton, 41, was in Portugal with Andrew and their two children but returned home to Braunton in North Devon last week
His wife Katie Cotton, 41, was in Portugal with Andrew and their two children but returned home to Braunton in North Devon last week.
She said she had a sleepless night following his fall but knew he would already be itching to get back in the water.
She said: ‘Me and the children flew back from there and we’re back on English turf. He’s out there at the moment, we’re waiting to hear how long it will be before he can get him home.
‘He’s had an MRI scan and X-rays, his got a break in his lower back.
‘It seems like there is a good prognosis for a rapid recovery.
‘We have a really good team of support people, and we all feel like he’s got good people and contact with him but we just want to get him home.
‘I know that all he will be thinking about is when he can get back in the water. Although it’s the worst thing that could happen to most people, to him its just part of what he does.
‘It’s amazing really, he trains very hard for it.’
Later on, Mr Cotton thanked his well-wishers and fans.
‘What can I say, I got a little excited this morning and ending up having possibly the worst wipeout impact wise of my life,’ he said.
‘Thank you to all the lifeguards and crew on the beach who helped stabilise me and do a great spinal recovery, I can’t name everyone but you all did your bit to get me safely to the hospital.
‘I have broken my back but I’ve been really lucky, I’m already looking forward and focusing my energy to get fit and back out there on some more big rollers!’